It’s odd to think that someone with a love for culture and diversity could dislike travel. It’s odd to think that a student would dedicate years of her education studying anthropology without any desire to do fieldwork abroad. Oddly enough, that someone was me. I was perfectly content with learning about other cultures from the comfort of my home. Given my attitude toward travel, it was not an easy decision to move to Brazil for 6 months. I had just finished my Master’s degree and was excited to give myself a chance to start a full time dream career and a new life with my husband. But I also knew that my life was no longer just about me. It was also about the life I happily committed to with my husband. He was offered this amazing opportunity to complete part of his research in Brazil for 6 months. My apprehensions toward living abroad could not get in the way. However, once I got there, I soon learned that this experience was also something for myself. The result of this incredible experience lead to catching the travel bug without any hope for a cure. Nor will I search for one. In addition to this lifelong self inflicted “ailment,” I realized that I learned so much from the experience. If you consider yourself a homebody the way I did,here are a few life lessons that you can learn from catching the travel bug.
Going with the flow
Of rain. Rain can place a hindrance on your vacation plans and your life plans. In a place where dryers weren’t common and where powerful rainfall seemed endless, we needed to alter our attitudes and laundry plans. I even learned to laugh about the rain. Sometimes when it rained shortly after hanging the clothes on the clothesline, and we went out to run errands, I’d say “well, I guess our clothes weren’t clean enough. Now, they will be.” And then of course there was the issue of transportation. Not having a car for 6 months, after being used to having a car, while trying to beat the rain in a foreign country was a excellent test of our ability to go with the flow, or against it. The rain was one of the many lessons that taught me to better accept the things that were out of my control.
A longing for the unfamiliar
The advantage I had with moving abroad was that my love for culture allowed me to embrace the Brazilian culture with open arms. In fact, I wanted to become as immersed in it as possible. The more you compare the norms and customs of your new home to those of your old home, the more you’ll deprive your chances of happiness and enjoyment. After a lengthy period of time of not knowing what to expect, the unfamiliar became more familiar. Once I moved back to Canada, I found it to be very boring. For the most part, I knew what to expect with each day. And that made me long for something new and exciting again. This is one drawback to catching the travel bug. But, it’s not enough for me to revert back to my homebody ways.
Learning to live away from family
With this big move, the idea of being away from family was probably the bitterest pill for me to swallow. The reality is that we cannot always live close to family. Work ends up taking centre stage. This experience made me appreciate what my parents went through to leave their original homes in Bangladesh and start a new life in Canada. 6 months was nothing compared to the many years they left their homeland behind. Eventually, my husband and I acquired a family of our own. The family whom we lived with and the friends we made became our family away from family. Prior to coming to Brazil, I spent a lot of time worrying about the people I love without giving consideration that I’d meet many more people to love. That was something truly invaluable.
Gaining a different perception of home
I came to understand and appreciate the phrase “home is where the heart is.” I even ended up coming up with my own Brazilian Portuguese phrase that could be postulated as the equivalent to this phrase. It is :”Brasil vai ficar no meu coração,” which means “Brazil will stay in my heart.” From someone who detested the idea of moving away, it’s crazy how a change of heart can happen like that. When we came back, we questioned where home really was for us. Having the opportunity to travel back 2 years later confirmed the sense of home we established in this beautiful country. When we reconnected with our friends and old haunts, it felt like we never left. Brazil will always feel like a home for us.
Discovering more of what you love
When you’re out of your normal milieu, you learn to adapt and find a new way to live and eventually love. My premature fears of Brazil delayed this realization for me. I was petrified of the potential dangerous creatures living in Brazil. I envisioned myself constantly finding spiders in my shoes and fending off snakes dangling from the trees. You might say I was fearful of travelling bugs. But none of that happened. Instead,I was in awe of the beautiful shoes and I could not get enough of the fresh mangoes and avocados dangling from the trees. I realized that the fear was cloaked as an excuse to hold myself back from the art of discovery. In the newness of it all, give yourself a chance to discover. In the process, your mind will open to the possibility of the excitement that is just around the corner. You may soon come to realize that these were things you loved all along. Once I let my guard down of the looming dangers of biodiversity, I realized how much I was nurturing my love for nature, colour, music, wandering, and adventure.
Above all, the greatest lesson that encompasses them all is learning what we take for granted. Can you learn these lessons while staying in your home country? Of course. But if you’re given the chance to go abroad and learn those lessons, do not refuse it. Debate it, consider all your options, but do not refuse it. Take it from someone who resisted it for a long time.